The first three minutes of Notre Dame Academy's 60-57 victory over National Christian in last night's Beltway League boys' championship held much of what everyone in attendance at Takoma Academy expected.
There was fast exciting play and two acrobatic dunks, including one by senior forward Patrick Ewing Jr., who had a reverse dunk from the baseline. But in the end, it was Notre Dame's clutch shooting and rebounding that grabbed the spotlight -- along with Notre Dame's Marcus Sikes, who pulled down teammate Brandon Clayton's missed free throw and sealed the game at the buzzer with a put-back.
The 20th-ranked Dragons (23-6) won each of their three meetings this season with National Christian (20-8).
"Coming into this game, we knew we had to play good defense, make our free throws and rebound," said Sikes, who finished the game with team highs in points (15) and rebounds (nine).
"We know our offense is always going to get things started; we needed to focus on defense."
National Christian's Ewing, along with teammate Bakari Smith, fueled a 5-0 run with less than a minute left to pull the Eagles within one. Ewing finished the quarter with 12 of his game-best 23 points.
"Patrick [Ewing] is just such an incredible athlete, we knew he was going to be taking most of their shots," Notre Dame Coach Larry Cullinane said.
"We did our best of defense on him and he was still making shots."
One of the most memorable shots was Abdullah Jalloh's halfcourt pass to Ewing, who caught the ball in midair and converted another reverse dunk to tie the game in the third quarter. The Eagles took their first lead with 6 minutes 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter, when Deron Washington slashed to the basket to give his team a 46-44 advantage.
It was tied at 52 when Notre Dame junior guard Joe Posey and Clayton combined for six consecutive points to give their team a 58-52 edge, and the Dragons held on from there.
Notre Dame Academy also won the girls' Beltway League championship, posting a 72-36 victory over Takoma Academy in the first game of the doubleheader. The Dragons (23-6) took a 17-4 lead in the first quarter.
Sophomore Elizabeth Lipovsky scored 12 of her game-best 19 points in the second quarter for Notre Dame. The Tigers finished 13-7.